Motorists and School Buses: Avoiding Disaster

It’s easy to forget that children and school buses are back on the roads after a 10-or-so-week period of not seeing them at all.

It’s that time of year when kids are returning to school. And, consequently, it’s that time of year when tragic accidents happen because motorists aren’t paying attention, don’t know the laws regarding school buses, are in a hurry to get to work and haven’t allotted extra time to accommodate school buses, and are dealing with the typical driving distractions like cell phones and other electronics. The first couple of weeks of school are the most dangerous for our children.

In all 50 states, it is illegal for motorists in both directions on undivided roadways to pass stopped school buses while children are getting on or off the bus. Yet, according to the National Safety Council, most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related crashes are four to seven years old and are hit by motorists illegally passing a stopped school bus.

Did you know . . . ?

  • Around 11 children under the age of 19 die every year in school-bus accidents, and more than 25 children die each year in pedestrian accidents. (Source: childrenddayton.org)
  • Children are at highest risk for the first few seconds after they get off their bus. According to childrensdayton.org, three times as many children are killed while getting on and off the bus as while riding the bus.
  • You should never pass a school bus on its right, where the entrance / exit door is, for any reason. The result can be disastrous.
  • Yellow flashing lights on a school bus are like yellow traffic lights. They alert motorists that the bus is about to stop.
  • Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign mean motorists in all 50 states must stop because children are getting on or off the bus.
  • The speed limit for traffic travelling in the same direction as a bus (whether or not the bus is moving) is 40 mph, which takes effect as soon as the rear lights of the school bus flash.
  • Pedestrians generally have the right-of-way at all intersections.
  • Remember that children are not predictable, especially when they are familiar with and comfortable in their surroundings, as they are when they are getting on and off their bus.
  • Children are the hardest pedestrians to see.
  • At traffic signals, motorists should never block or partially block crosswalks.
  • Motorists should never honk their horns or rev their engines to speed up pedestrians, especially children, because it may frighten them into doing something dangerous.
  • Warning flashers in school zones mean motorists must stop and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing the roadway in a marked crosswalk or at an intersection.

Motorists Failing to Stop for Stopped School Buses: how Serious Is the Problem?

  • Across the nation, motorists pass stopped school buses more than 70,000 times a day. (Source: today.com)
  • Nationally, about 12 children between ages 5 and 18 die each year in school-bus accidents involving motorists who fail to stop. (Source: stnonline.com)
  • Since 1999, 13 students have been killed in NC while getting on and off school buses. Four of those deaths occurred between 2012-13. (Source: stnonline.com)
  • March 2014, Towanda, PA. Three children suffered minor injuries and one was taken to the hospital for treatment when a pickup truck failed to stop behind a car who HAD stopped for a school bus with its stop sign extended and lights flashing. The pickup truck crashed into the car behind the bus, smashing the car into the rear of the bus.
  • December 2014, Brevard, NC. A driver who failed to stop for a stopped school bus hit three children, critically injuring a 10-year-old and leaving his 15-year-old sister and another 12-year-old child with minor injuries for which they were hospitalized.
  • March 2015, Fitzgerald, GA. Nine children were taken to the emergency room, one fifth-grader with serious injuries, after a semi-truck failed to stop behind the bus, which was stopped with its stop sign and flashers deployed.
  • The problem is so pervasive that many school buses now employ multiple cameras mounted on the sides of buses, which activate as soon as the bus stops and deploys its stop sign and flashers. The cameras take multiple pictures of vehicles passing the bus, which are sent to the police department, which issues a citation to the motorist.
  • April 2015, Gresham, WA. An SUV drove onto the shoulder of the road to speed around the right-hand side of a stopped school bus that three children were boarding. The driver barely missed the children. The video surveillance on the bus caught the entire incident.
  • May 2015, Union County, NC. An enraged truck driver tried to pass a school bus on the road but couldn’t. When the bus stopped at an intersection, the driver got out of the truck and began screaming and cursing at the school bus driver right in front of the children.


We all get in a hurry to get to our jobs and other commitments. But impatience where children and school buses are concerned will result in a tragedy. Some things you can do to avoid the frustration of navigating the roads with school buses and to ensure the safety of our children:

  • Know the specific laws in your state that govern driving near stopped school buses. Simply click this link for a list of the laws in each state.
  • Make sure you are aware of school-term dates in the areas where you drive.
  • Call the department of transportation to get the school-bus routes in the areas where you drive and adjust your driving times accordingly.

And remember: the school bus whose stop sign you fail to see or ignore is carrying precious, irreplaceable cargo. It could be your child on that bus.

We are Advanced Bio Treatment. We are here for you 24 hours every day of the year. Should you need our services, please call us at 800-295-1684.


School-Zone and School-Bus Safety Resources:

School Bus Safety Tips for Parents, Drivers and Children

School Bus Safety Rules for Kids

Laws Regarding School Buses


Further Reading








Ted Pelot Owner & President of Crime Scene Cleanup Company - Advanced Bio-Treatment